The (powerless) Daeshi men

Even though they were the ones who create much of the terror, Daesh men are mostly background figures, many of whom lack real agency. Throughout Zuhourʹs story, we learn nothing about Reemʹs father. Neither do we learn about Abu Qutayba, who was Zuhourʹs abusive first "owner", nor about Abu Sayyaf, who bought her from Abu Qutayba and refused to feed her.

The one Daesh member we learn about is the "American Emir", a convert who came from the U.S. and struggled to speak basic Arabic. The American is perhaps the most grotesque among the Daesh slavers, as he demanded not just obedience but a sham of love. He told a woman named Badia that, "You will love me. You have to come and ask me to sleep with you, to make love without ropes around your hands or feet."

The American Emir keeps women enslaved and yet ultimately appears pathetic and powerless, as does a young Daeshi named Ahmed. We hear his story from Claudia. They had been neighbours and Ahmed seemed to want to help her. Yet during every moment he was helping Claudia to escape, he was clearly in a state of terror. Far from being in control of their worlds, the Daeshi men seem terrified by the systems they enforce.

Most of the book is filled with womenʹs stories straight from their mouths. Yet Mikhail also includes moments from her own relationship with Iraq, as well as her poetic sensibility. Every once in a while, the text seems to explode into poetry, as when Mikhail evokes a womanʹs terrible grief: "Her dress exploded,/the flowers scattered in the air,/the colours popped up high like fireworks in a celebration,/ but; no sound could be heard,/no sound . . ."

In the end, whether we call this book In the Sabaya Market or The Beekeeper, it shows how the best of human qualities can persist even in the worst of times. It also shows us the power and agency of the oppressed. Although much can be taken from them, they are the ones who can change the story.

Marcia Lynx Qualey

© Qantara.de 2018

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